Let’s drop in on an interview between a Life@Work magazine writer and Eugene Peterson, pastor, author of numerous books and The Message, a paraphrase of the Bible.

L@W: “So how do we develop discernment and discipline in a culture that’s not very helpful to us?”

Peterson: “The answers are the old answers. You respond with silence and solitude. Instead of the word balance, which is a dead word and give the impression that we’re in control, I’d like to use the word rhythm. Rhythm is a living thing.

L@W: “Can you explain that?”

Peterson: “In walking, you can walk in a hurry or you can walk rhythmically. The interesting thing between the managing of our time in our culture by schedule, as opposed to the ancient way of rhythm, is that you can destroy a schedule but you can’t a rhythm. Rhythm is living; it’s organic.”

L@W: “But how do you keep a rhythm? Isn’t it difficult to stay in sync?”

Peterson: “If you’re clumsy. You never see a good basketball player off-beat. It takes training to do that. A jazz improvisation is another way of doing that. When they jam together, no matter what one is doing, the partners are fitting into it. The rhythm is not destroyed.”

L@W: “You have written on the necessity of Sabbath-keeping for a healthy spiritual life. Why is this important?”

Peterson: “Holy days are a background rhythm for your life that you fit the rest of your life into. You don’t take a day off; you take a day apart. The Sabbath defines the rest of the days. That’s a totally different way of viewing time than our culture views it. It’s not easy. It requires long training and persistent determination. But ultimately it’s easier to live this way than to live fragmented, crazy.

One of the things we experience when we live this way is that we become integrated without even trying. I don’t think I can integrate my life. But I think I can live rhythmically and discover integration.

When people take – to use the secular word – vacations, they slow down. They are leisurely. They spend their time talking. They relax. They find that they’re capable of it. People don’t go on vacations to get integrated, but they go on one and become integrated.

Integration is a by-product. You don’t go looking for it; it happens.”

L@W: “What are some other ways of developing rhythms?”

Peterson: “I think one of the most basic things people can do in our culture to develop rhythms in our lives is by being more thoughtful and intentional about the way we prepare and eat our meals.

I’ve been appalled, dismayed to find out how few people eat together. They don’t eat breakfast together. Or dinner. It’s such a natural way to live rhythmically. There are all the parts that go into it. There are a couple of hours that go into the preparation of it that can be ritual. The ritual has been killed by the prepared foods, the dishwasher, the microwave. We use those things to destroy the ritual, thinking that we’ve saved ourselves some work. But if we realized how important those rituals are, we wouldn’t destroy them.”

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1 Eugene Peterson, “Finding Life’s Rhythm,” Life@Work: Groupzine: The Art Of Balance, vol. 1, 2006, 164-165.